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Cross Game Vol. 3 May 18, 2011

Posted by ayasawada in Manga.
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Cross game vol3 cover

Another rivetting volume of Cross Game continues my conversion into a fan of sports manga or, more precisely, that drawn by Mitsuru Adachi.

(SPOILERS)

This volume (containing books 6 and 7 of the manga) finally wraps up the Varsity vs Portables storyline, with the cold-hearted coach and vice Principal sent packing by the forces of justice and team spirit. This hugely satisfying conclusion also opens a new, intriguing, thread: that of clean up batter Yuhei Azuma.

Azuma’s storyline intrigues me for several reasons. First, his motivations for being so driven in baseball – reasons tied in with the tragic end to his brother Junpei’s baseball career. Then there’s the relationship between the two brothers and what tensions and respect exist between the two. It’s a sibling relationship missing from the story thus far — with the Tsukushima family all girls and Ko being an only child — and that in itself adds a new element to the Cross Game universe.

But more intriguing than that is the way that Azuma brothers’ arrival stirs up the rest of the pot. You can see a begrudging, but firm, friendship forming between Ko and Yuhei, not least since the latter now boards with the Kitamuras! There’s also the impact of the jolly (and flirty) Junpei on Ko, Yuhei and the object of his affection, Ichiyo Tsukushima, the eldest of the Tsukushima sisters and who thus far has been but a background ‘mother’ to the cast. Junpei and Yuhei’s arrival looks like freshening up and expanding the roles of the supporting cast and providing a more rounded story not purely focused on the KoXAoba dynamic and the school team’s road to Koshien.

Beyond this new addition, Cross Game’s other attributes continue to shine through: a very likeable supporting cast – particularly the dysfunctional, but well-meaning Portable team – and above all Adachi-sensei’s unbelievable ability to communicate baseball technicalities in a simple – and exhilarating – way. I’m British, so there’s no way I’d have the slightest interest in the sport, yet alone understand the level of analysis that these characters take part in. Yet reading Cross Game I’m not only understanding all of it, I’m in awe of it and swept along by the triumph of a bunch of grafters against adversity and their hope of an impossible dream.

There’s so much to admire in this manga, which I’m sure I’ll cover in a review of some kind when I get to the end. But largely it comes down to this being a shojo manga in a shonen disguise – it’s romance and drama married with all that I love about sports narratives. In a word, it’s pure WIN.

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